August is an excellent month for orca whale watching on our kayak tours in the San Juan Islands. This orca whale sightings report is from August 2011 and should give a good indication of what to expect this month on our killer whale watching kayak tours in the San Juan Islands, near Seattle, Washington. In most years, San Juan Island orca whale sightings reach their peak in July, continue strong into August, and gradually taper off into October.
August is our warmest and driest month of the year in the San Juan Islands, making it ideal for camping and kayaking. It’s also the calmest month – perfect for folks who want to try their first kayak tour and get introduced to this environmentally friendly way of travel and explore the marine world.
Orca whales were sighted on over half (54%) of our San Juan Islands kayak trips in August 2011. This is a slight increase from the previous year. Porpoises were seen on 58% of our kayak tours, a slight decrease that is continuing into 2012. Reduced numbers of baitfish such as Pacific herring may be affecting our local porpoises. By combining whales and porpoises, we saw cetaceans on 83% of our San Juan Islands kayak trips.
Details from the August 2011 San Juan Islands orca whale watching report:
- We encountered killer whales on 78% of the camping trips – an improvement from 2010!
- 5-day San Juan kayak expeditions saw orca whales on 3 of 4 trips.
- 3-day San Juan kayaking trips had killer whale watching success on 6 of 8 tours.
- 2-day San Juan Islands kayak tours found the orcas on 5 of 6 trips.
- Our camping trips saw either Dall’s porpoise or harbor porpoise on 13 of 18 tours for a success rate of 72%. The only four camping trips that missed the orcas were able to enjoy porpoises as their consolation whale. Porpoises are the smallest members of the toothed whale family, so we had 100% success for finding at least one species of cetacean on every kayak camping trip!
- The 1-day San Juan kayaking trips succeeded in finding killer whales on 40% of the tours. Clearly, spending less time in the orca whales’ habitat results in fewer encounters so we always recommend participating in the longest tour possible to give you the best chances for success.
The San Juan Islands of Washington are the best place in the United States for kayaking with killer whales and Sea Quest has the best record of success. Despite being the undisputed experts in our field, we don’t find orca whales on every kayak tour. Killer whales move quickly in pursuit of migrating salmon and are sometimes unpredictable. Bad whale watching luck can occur despite our best efforts. Rarely, rough seas can make spotting whales nearly impossible. Occasionally, we find ourselves on the opposite side of a point or small islet from a pod of orcas, and by the time we get our kayaks around the corner the whales have departing just ahead of us – leaving us with broken hearts. Orca whale watching is no different than other kinds of wildlife watching. If you go to the best location at the best time of year and spend as much time in the whales’ habitat as you can, you will eventually be rewarded!
Join a Kayak Quest for Whales from Friday Harbor, Washington
Photo credits to the best San Juan Island whale watching captain Jim Maya.